Note: This article is for informational purposes only. This is not an attempt to suggest any kind of cure and medication. This information in this article is based on the experience and traditional medicinal knowledge of Adivasis. Please consult your doctor before consuming these medicines.
Translated from Tamil by Nisha Felicita
The Paliyar tribe resides in the Western Ghats around Kodaikanal in Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu. Since the time of my ancestors, forests, mountains, trees, vines, rivers and streams were an indispensable part of the tribe and my ancestors fulfilled their daily needs with the resources from the forest. The food the Paliyar tribe eats even now comes directly from the forest. One of the food items that my ancestors used to cook and eat regularly was spinach.
In the circumstances in which my ancestors lived, there was a high likelihood of food shortages. However, even when such a situation arose, the tribals found a way to sustain themselves by making use of natural food found in the forests. Spinach was one such food item.
There are two types of spinach- white spinach and black spinach. This type of spinach is more plentiful where there are rivers and streams. It also grows well in areas where water leakage or moisture is high. Thus, the growing spinach leaves were plucked, cleaned and cooked whenever the people needed them since they were readily available around them.
The spinach is finely chopped, along with the stalk. The cleaned and chopped spinach is put in a pan and cooked well. Usually, we don’t use spinach on its own, as it is known to cause itching in the mouth. Therefore, spinach is boiled with sour greens, which also taste delicious. People also peeled seeds of the wild guava fruit and added it to the spinach.
The broth that has been made while cooking spinach also tastes better when it is kept for a few days. Sliced bananas are also added to spinach broth and consumed. Many tribals also eat wild yams along with these greens as accompaniments. It is said that bananas and yams are very tasty when eaten with this spinach broth. Sometimes, we also pour this spinach broth on rice and eat it.
I have often heard my Paliyar elders say that our ancestors used spinach as medicine on many occasions and it has relieved their health problems. Spinach is known to be rich in Vitamins A, K and C, along with manganese and iron. It is good for the immune system, strengthens bones and is good for the heart. It also helps in lowering blood pressure and is rich in fibre, promoting digestive health.
My ancestors found nature-based solutions for almost every health problem they had and to protect themselves from such problems. Nowadays, many have forgotten this traditional medicine. It is important to revive these medicines and encourage people to use nature-based approaches to stay free from disease.
Note: This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.